Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights
PO Box 208 Davis, CA 95617

United Poultry Concerns
PO Box 150 • Machipongo, VA 23405-0150

5 Febuary 2003
Contact: Teri Barnato 530-759-8106
Karen Davis 757-678-7875
United Poultry Concerns (UPC) and the AVAR Criticize the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Approach to Eradicating Exotic Newcastle Disease in Birds

Two animal protection organizations, United Poultry Concerns (UPC) and the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR), criticized the treatment that many California residents and their companion birds are receiving at the hands of men representing the Task Force of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).

Under an order to eradicate Exotic Newcastle Disease (END), an epidemic virus originating in birds bred for cockfighting in Mira Loma, where it could have been stopped from spreading in October according to Norco Animal Control Officer Renee Powers, the task force is “terrorizing innocent families and their defenseless birds.”

Powers said “one Norco woman suffered a nervous breakdown when men from the task force killed her two parrots before her eyes after pretending to ‘test’ them for END in a contaminated death truck parked outside her house.”

Norco resident Randy Walker, who is appealing the state’s plan to kill his backyard flock of 200 birds showing no sign of the disease, told The Press Enterprise on January 31 that he was badgered on his property by the CDFA Task Force on January 22nd. According to Walker, a task force worker told him “he had no right to appeal and threatened to have him arrested if he attempted to stop the killing.”

Walker’s neighbors, Mike and Sue Swallow, told UPC in an email correspondence that they attended a town meeting about END on January 23 “where Walker described the previous day’s appearance at his door of thirty-one task force men prepared, in full view of his family, to catch their birds, tape their legs together, put each one in a plastic bag, and gas them with carbon dioxide or shoot them to death with pellet guns.” Walker told the meeting the task force said they were going to bludgeon his family’s emu because the bird was too big for a bag.

More than 81,000 backyard birds have so far been brutally destroyed, and 285,000 more birds are scheduled to be bludgeoned, shot, and gassed, “euthanized,” according to The Press Enterprise on January 31, 2003.

“The mentality of ‘test and slaughter’ is inappropriate for infected or exposed chickens and other captive birds,” states Nedim C. Buyukmihci, VMD, President of the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights and Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of California, Davis. “Since wild birds can also be carriers and spread the disease, are we to slaughter all of them, too? A better approach would be to isolate via quarantine all affected poultry flocks and to apply vaccination and common-sense sanitation precautions. We would never ‘test and slaughter’ human beings. To do so with other beings is ethically and biologically inconsistent.”

If the mass-extermination approach to eradicating Newcastle Disease in the early 1970s is predictive, millions of birds, tax dollars, and human resources will be pointlessly sacrificed over the next few years, a prospect not entirely unwelcome to the egg industry, which has been trying to reduce the U.S. flock size for years. “They’d be crying all the way to the bank” if their chickens were stricken, one poultry producer told the Los Angeles Times.

“The filth, squalor, and stress imposed on birds by the cockfighting industry and the exhausting demands of commercial egg and chicken production guarantee infectious disease,” says United Poultry Concerns President Karen Davis. “You treat living creatures like trash, you have no welfare regulations for the birds, and this is what you get -- sickness, suffering, and death on a grand scale that will ultimately affect people.”

For information and updates on Exotic Newcastle Disease (END):

The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights is a nonprofit organization committed to balancing the needs of nonhuman animals with those of human animals.

United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.

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